The Best Hiking Pants of 2019
|Price||$55.73 at REI|
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|$54.99 at MooseJaw|
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|$79.00 at REI|
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|$99.00 at REI||$59.95 at REI|
|Pros||Airy fabric, very comfortable, maximum mobility||Comfortable fit and fabric, very versatile, perfectly functioning features||Supple and mobile, DWR coating works great, fair price||Convertible option looks nice and is easy to use, durable stretchy nylon, tons of pockets||Comfortable, lots of pockets, integrated belt|
|Cons||Waist fit is loose, not great in cool weather||Not much ventilation, fabric absorbs water in a heavy downpour||Not many pockets, slim fit may not be awesome for larger adults||Convertible zipper rests across lower thigh, front button sometimes comes undone||Roll up snaps have limited versatility, baggy|
|Bottom Line||For comfort and breathability, these pants can’t be beat.||A favorite pair of very comfortable hiking pants.||An awesome pant for 14er day hikes and chilling at the brewpub afterwards.||A fantastic versatile option because of its numerous, spacious pockets, and the ability to switch quickly into shorts.||These comfortable, relaxed fit pants are an inexpensive option for day hikes and short backpacking trips.|
|Rating Categories||Ferrosi Pants||Prana Stretch Zion||Patagonia Quandary||KUHL Renegade Cargo Converti...||REI Co-op Sahara Roll-Up|
|Comfort And Mobility (35%)|
|Venting And Breathability (20%)|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||Ferrosi Pants||Prana Stretch Zion||Patagonia Quandary||KUHL Renegade Cargo Converti...||REI Co-op Sahara Roll-Up|
|Weight (in oz)||12.2 oz||13.6 oz||10 oz||17 oz||9.5 oz|
|Material||86% nylon / 14% spandex 90D stretch woven ripstop||97% Nylon / 3% Spandex||94% nylon (62% recycled) / 6% spandex||DURALUX 95% Nylon, 5% Spandex||94% nylon / 6% spandex|
|Water Resistance||DWR finish||DWR finish||DWR finish||DWR finish||DWR finish|
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants
We think that the Outdoor Research Ferrosi is the best pair of hiking pants we tested. They are extremely comfortable, offer a high degree of mobility, keep you cool as you work up a sweat, and are versatile enough to be worn in the rain or sunshine. They are made of durable ripstop fabric, and incorporate a higher-than-average 14% spandex to ensure maximum mobility for hiking, running, yoga, or high stepping on rock. They are also very light, thin, and highly breathable, making them an ideal choice for hot weather.
The super thin 90D ripstop fabric is without a doubt the most breathable that we tested, but on the flip side it means that they are not ideal on cold or windy days where they don't provide quite enough protection for skinny legs. We also couldn't help but notice that the waist sizing is a bit off. These pants want to sit lower on the hips. For our testers, they needed to wear their typical waist size with a belt to make them functional. Even so, we think that they work well as an all-purpose pair that especially shine in hot weather.
Read Review: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants
Best Bang for the Buck
REI Co-op Sahara Roll-Up
As one of the least expensive pants that we tested, the REI Co-op Sahara Roll-Up is one of the best values around. They have a relaxed and comfortable fit. Despite the low price, this pair is highly water resistant and comes with a bunch of features. It has six pockets, including two front, two rear, and two cargo pockets on the side. The integrated belt features a simple slide buckle that is comfortable under a backpacking waist belt. The namesake feature offers ventilation by securing the lower legs via snaps if you choose to roll them up.
We found that these pants are either a love 'em or hate 'em kind of pair. The fit may be too baggy for some. We also don't like the lack of zippers on the rear pockets, and the flap covers make it challenging to pull out items. All things considered though, we are delighted with the performance of the Sahara Roll-Up and would recommend this pair to anyone who prioritizes functionality with a touch of value.
Read Review: REI Co-op Sahara Roll-Up
Top Pick for Climbing
Prana Stretch Zion
The Prana Stretch Zion is one of our favorite pairs of pants for hiking and trekking. They are also our favorite model to wear while climbing, a testament to their durability and versatility. We love the cargo pocket with zippers on both sides, enabling us to easily reach a phone or topo while sitting at a belay. We also enjoy the small but practical waist tightener, which means these pants can stay on without a belt. This feature is especially beneficial for typical weight loss after a week or two on the trail. Combined with some of the softest and most comfortable, stretchy fabric of any of the models we tested, it is no wonder that these pants are one of our Top Picks.
While these were our absolute favorite pair of pants for climbing, they are not without their flaws. The fabric is a bit heavy and densely woven for hiking in hot weather. They are much more effective when the temperature is on the cooler side. They also aren't as water resistant as most, so if wet weather is in your future, look elsewhere. However, if comfort is your top priority, then we would strongly recommend trying on this pair of pants.
Read Review: Prana Stretch Zion
Notable for Incredible Durability
Fjallraven Vidda Pro
If bushwhacking and scrambling are more your speed in the outdoors than staying on the trail, we recommend checking out the unique Fjallraven Vidda Pro, made with a tried-and-true design from the backwoods of Sweden. The most interesting feature of these pants is that their high-cotton fabric is meant to have Fjallraven's Greenland wax treatment, in much the same way that one might wax their skis, to increase their durability and water resistance.
With this unique design comes a few notable downsides. These pants are heavy and trap heat far more than their competition. They are also quite expensive and offer an atypical style for a pair of hiking pants. These pants are high-quality, reinforced, and ethically sourced, and they will thrive as a do-it-all option for the rough wearer who's into hunting, bushcraft, and winter ranching. While they weren't the highest scorers in our nylon-heavy review, they set themselves apart for their durability and toughness — notable and admirable qualities for any pair of pants.
Read Review: Fjallraven Vidda Pro
Why You Should Trust Us
Lead testers Ben Applebaum-Bauch and Andy Wellman live for the backcountry. Andy is an avid climber, hiker, and alpine skier. He has published multiple bouldering and climbing guides to the American southwest and knows the value that a comfortable, protective pair of hiking pants can provide. His work has also been published on Climbing.com. Ben got his professional start in the outdoor industry as a trip guide and has led multi-week adventures throughout northern New England. He is also an avid thru-hiker, passing under the baking sun of the Pacific Crest Trail and moving through the whipping winds and summer hail storms of the Colorado, Long, and Appalachian trails.
Our review began by scouring the internet and researching hiking pants. We then selected our top choices and went from there to hands-on testing. We took them out, rain, shine, and wind. We tested these pants in a variety of locations, including the Cascades of Oregon, the desert of Southern Utah, the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The majority of our testing took place on hikes and camping adventures. We looked at each pair's comfort and mobility and how well they protected us from the elements; whether they kept us dry in the rain or allowed us to stay dry in the damp heat of summer. In addition to a variety of activities on trail, we wore them for everyday use, hoping to get a compliment or two on our refined style.
Related: How We Tested Hiking Pants
Analysis and Test Results
To accurately rate each product, we tested them in five separate metrics that we feel are critical for assessing the performance and quality of any pair of hiking pants: comfort and mobility, venting and breathability, versatility, water resistance, and features. For each metric, we assigned each pair a score from 1-10. These scores are weighted based on each parameter's relative importance to the overall function of a pair of hiking pants. Combining the tallies from all of the metrics, each model earns a score between 0-100. In all cases, we rated pants based on their performance compared to the competition. That is, the highest scoring model from our testing is the best overall model.
It's important to note that a lower scoring model is still a top choice; it may just be less than the best in a specific metric. We carefully consider the weight of each metric relative to the others, but we recognize that each wearer is going to have different priorities. If, for example, versatility is most vital to you, we encourage you not just to look at a product's overall score, but to also focus in on that specific metric within to discover how each product performed at a more granular level.
Related: Buying Advice for Hiking Pants
An important consideration while shopping for new clothing or equipment is value. While the adage, "you get what you pay for" often rings true, our years of testing experience have taught us that the highest priced products are often not the highest performing, and with a little research, consumers can usually find great products for less than their retail price. For us, value is the price of an item relative to its overall score. That is, models with higher scores and lower prices are considered a better value than those with lower scores and higher prices. Most of the pants in this review fall relatively close to each other in performance as well as price, and so there are many solid choices if you are searching for the best value.
Comfort and Mobility
The most critical consideration for most outdoor clothing is how comfortable it is. We find that when we are comfortable, we can focus more on what we are doing and less on what we are wearing.
In the context of hiking pants, comfort means that the pair moves and flows as you move; not obstructing, not pinching, not rubbing or riding up, not annoying or distracting. Our thinking is that if it isn't comfortable, the rest of the metrics probably don't matter nearly as much; it doesn't matter whether the pockets are deep enough or if the stitching in the rear is durable if you are not going to wear the pants in the first place.
Comfort goes hand-in-hand with mobility. Hiking pants need to be able to move and bend with you and not restrict movement. The pants we reviewed are primarily nylon that typically incorporates some smaller percentages of stretchy material, such as spandex or elastane to facilitate user mobility. Still, others include some cotton to improve the feel against the skin.
Some pants, such as the Patagonia Quandary have a slim fit but compensate with an increased stretchiness, maintaining mobility for the wearer. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi includes a higher proportion of elastane. Other models, such as the Fjallraven Vidda Pro or REI Sahara Roll-Up pants, offer minimal stretch in the fabric and promote mobility with a looser, more relaxed cut.
The most comfortable pants are constructed using a soft material that feels great against the skin and has stretchier, more mobile fabrics. The cut is also an essential factor but could be heavily dependent on the body type and shape of the wearer. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi, Prana Brion, and Prana Stretch Zion score at the top of the list. Close behind is the stretchy Patagonia Quandary.
Venting and Breathability
We love hiking pants for their ability to protect from the wind, sun, cold, and brush. However, do enough physical activity in them, and you are going to get hot and sweaty. The best hiking pants are going to shield the wearer from the elements while keeping them cool and dry. Breathability is the ability of the fabric to allow heat and moisture to escape from the inside of the garment to the outside world. Venting refers to the features included in a pair of pants that facilitate the release of heat and moisture. Features like zippered vents, mesh-lined pockets, and rollable cuffs factored heavily into a product's score. Most of the pants feature a tight, nylon weave that severely limits direct air transfer — good for wind protection, but not as efficient for breathability.
To assess venting and breathability, we primarily relied on field testing. Much of this time was in the direct rays of the desert sun, where we could quickly work up a sweat. We also decided to test all the pants in a more controlled situation, running up the same steep hill in the sun, working up a sweat, paying close attention to how effectively each pair kept us cool relative to the others. Though it is challenging to quantify these results numerically, the quality of each model's breathability became apparent.
Not surprisingly, the pants made of the lightest and thinnest fabric tended to be the most breathable, while the pants with the most mesh and zippered vents cooled us off the quickest and prevented us from getting too sweaty in the first place. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi is the lightest, thinnest, and by far the most breathable pair in this test, making them a top choice for wearing in hot climates. The KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible has a variety of vents, not to mention the ability to zip off the lower legs to turn the pants into shorts. The pants that we found to be the least breathable were also the thickest and heaviest and had the fewest vents. With its extraordinarily dense and heavy G-1000 fabric and no vents, the Fjallraven Vidda Pro is a pant designed exclusively for cooler weather. The Arc-Teryx Lefroy also has thicker fabric — great for wind resistance — less impressive on breathability.
Versatility is a model's ability to maintain functionality in a variety of conditions and activities. The most versatile pants should be able to handle intense sun, heat, wind, rain, cold, bugs, and brush.
Convertibility (from pants to shorts) increases a pant's versatility. In general, pants that have a convertible option score higher for versatility. If versatility is a top priority for you, be sure to check out whether or not a pair that we have reviewed also comes in an option with removable legs.
We also assess how appropriate each pair is for activities other than hiking. We took them swimming (we don't bring our bathing suits on thru-hikes), stretching out with some yoga, rock climbing, and on long days traveling. In these activities, we considered the durability of each pair, as well as their style. While these pants are suited for hiking, it is nice to be able to wear them around town if need be, and this factor also contributed to a pant's versatility score.
Made with durable nylon and offering many venting options as well as the ability to convert into shorts, we found the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible to be the most versatile pair of pants that we tested for this review. They kept us cool while hiking uphill in the sun, and were also thick enough to protect us from the cold and wind. We also liked wearing them around town and while working outside. They also proved to be an adequate climbing pant as well. A close second was the Prana Stretch Zion, which we found to be slightly warmer, and also comes in a convertible option. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi, Arc'Teryx Lefroy and The North Face Paramount Active served us well whether out hiking with a pack on or traveling. The last two have a slimmer fit, making them more stylish and passable in front country social settings.
If rain is in the forecast, you'll want to be protected. Quality water resistance is a huge bonus for a pair of hiking pants, but it is also important for those day hikers that happen to live in a wet climate. We also consider wind resistance when assessing a hiking pant's performance. This metric more or less chalks up to the denseness of the weave and heft of the fabric.
Most of these pants are designed to keep you as dry as possible while remaining lightweight and comfortable. However, it is worth noting that they are not specialty rain layers, and are not waterproof. Most of them come with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating applied to the outside. This chemical coating helps the fabric shed precipitation, preventing it from absorbing into the material and dripping down your legs. These treatments do break down and wear off over time, especially if you wash your pants frequently in the washing machine, so if you are heading out on a long trip with an older pair of pants, you should apply a new DWR finish before you begin.
To test water resistance, we wore these pants outside as often as we could in poor weather. Testing conditions ranged from hiking in rainy, snowy mountains to sunny and dry in the desert. To determine how these pants performed in precipitation, we also conducted a shower test: we put the pants on and jumped into a shower for a fixed amount of time. We also used a spray bottle to evenly spritz the outside of the pants to understand the process of saturation and water beading. Things we look for are how well the DWR coating works before and after testing and washing, whether the fabric tended to absorb water, how wet our legs got inside the pants, and how long the pants took to dry out after being hung up.
The most weather resistant pants are the Patagonia Quandary and Arc'Teryx Lefroy. The DWR coating on these models does a great job of shedding water even after a lot of wears, and there is minimal absorption. These pants also dry out quickly since water stays on the surface. We are intrigued by the performance of the wax impregnated Fjallraven Vidda Pro pant, which eschews the now-standard chemical DWR coating in favor of a more natural and customizable treatment.
The final category that differentiates the best pairs of hiking pants from the rest is each pair's set of features. These are the thoughtful design elements that enhance a wearer's experience. Each pair has its own set of unique features, including the type and number of pockets and their location, waist tightening systems, and belts, pants-to-shorts conversion, roll up snaps, ventilation holes, and crotch zippers. Some of these features were functional additions that inspired our adoration, while others were excessive and frustrating.
Our primary focus during testing was whether the features included proved to be practical and functional. For example, having the option to convert a pair into shorts is useful, but we also rated this feature on how well the lower leg zippers functioned and how they looked and felt. We did a similar analysis of pocket layout and location, as well as for waist tightening systems.
In short, the more useful and functional features a pant included, the higher the score. Products that received a lower rating either included few useful features, or the features that they had didn't function nearly as well as competitors.
The KUHL Renegade pant boasts the best feature set. It has a ton of pocket options for those who like to have all their trail trinkets handy and organized, as well as excellent ventilation and the ability to convert to shorts. The Prana Stretch Zion has fewer pockets than the KUHL pants, but the design and execution of its features are nearly flawless. We love the small, low profile waist tightener that allowed us to backpack and climb without wearing a belt. Features account for 15% of a product's final score.
Hiking pants offer a large handful of benefits, often for activities beyond hiking and backpacking. With so many options on the market, the challenge is trying to decide which ones to buy. While comfort is usually a top priority, the climate in which you spend most of your time can dictate what other metrics are most important to you. We hope that our review of the most highly rated and popular hiking pants will help you make the best choice for your needs. Happy trails!
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch & Andy Wellman